|A Greek Sponge Schooner at Cedar Key|
There have been numerous stories told of big sharks seen in the Gulf waters in and around Cedar Key by so many people.
My father-in-law, Henry Burroughs Haven (Papa) worked on one of the Greek sponge boats when he was a young man before his time in service during WWI and his days of working on the railroad.
One of the stories he told was, one of the divers dressed in a diving suit and helmet was attacked by a huge shark. The shark bit his helmet, and shook him, but passed on. The diver recovered from the impact enough to hide himself among the rocks.
|A Greek Sponge Diver|
Fortunately for the diver the shark’s attack missed his air supply hose, had that not happened, the diver would surely have drowned and been shark bait anyway. At one time the Greeks had quite a large fleet of sponge boats that regularly worked off Cedar Key.
One more story that I remember that he told was about another diver in a diving suit with a helmet. He said, “The water he was diving in was shallow enough, and clear enough, we could see the entire thing as it was happening, from the boat. The big Hammerhead shark came in for an attack and fortunately the diver was close to a rock pile.
|A Big Hammerhead Shark|
|A Greek Sponge Diver with Hook|
In the late eighties there were several shark fishermen around the Island who fished for sharks because there was a really good market for the meat. One morning as I was on my morning walk around the “Big Dock” one of them had come in to the dock at the Marina, and he was cutting the jawbone out of a fourteen foot Tiger shark that he had caught earlier in the morning.
Naturally a small crowd had gathered around to watch him at his work because they were curious. I was no different, sharks fascinate people, especially the big ones. When he finished extracting the jaw bone he held it up so everyone could get a good look at the size of it.
The people made various comments about it, and I asked him if I could try it on for size. At that time I was not quite as large as I am now, I was at least forty pounds lighter nevertheless, I was still a big woman. I held the jaws in the open position up over the top of my head and lowered it all the way to my feet and stepped out of it, and did not touch my body with the teeth.
It was an unusual thing for me to do; it gave me an eerie feeling, and if I had not been convinced before, I certainly was now, and I knew that I never wanted to swim with the sharks at any time or any place, and most especially the big guys!
I have seen a lot of big ones myself, but always from the dock or a boat!
Once when we were scalloping at East Bank we watched a confrontation between two big ones, but they were out in the deeper water just off the edge of the bank, and where we were walking the bank which was completely out of the water. They are powerful creatures.
Many times when we have been clamming for the large Quahog, wild clams at the clam banks on the western shore, we have seen a lot of huge dorsal fins sticking up above the water as they glided by in the deeper water of the channel
We always waited to get overboard till the tide had dropped enough you could easily see a big one if they were on the bank with you. Most of the time we wore socks and stomped for the clams, you knew you had found one as soon as your heel or toe stepped on it, it was hard and firm in the soft bottom. Sometimes you’d find two or three very close together.
Our stomping made noise and vibrations that sharks are drawn to. We were very fortunate that we never had a close encounter with a big one, but we had numerous encounters with the smaller ones. They would brush up against our legs, and we would move a little higher up on the bank.
The big ones seen have been all kinds of sharks, Hammerheads, Tigers, Bull sharks, etc. Chuck and Chester caught a Great White in a turtle net up on the western shore on the last turtling trip made before turtling was outlawed.
A lot of people have told us they don’t come up into the Gulf waters, but this one did and it was huge, it was a little over half the length of the twenty thrree foot bird-dog boat they were in, Chuck figured it was somewhere around twelve or thirteen ft. long, and it had a massive head.
It is a little hard to mistake a Great White with its distinct markings, and especially for someone who had worked on the water most of their lives and had seen as many different kinds of sharks as Chuck and Chester had.
Many times big dorsal fins have been seen from the “Big Dock”, my friend Janie lived on 1st Street, one day she went out back to get more supplies for building crab traps, and she watched as a big dorsal was following some teens towing another teen behind the boat on a big tube.
She yelled and screamed, but they didn't see or hear her, she could only pray they made it in safely and the one riding the tube didn't fall off. Thank God they did, she got in her car and drove down to the Park, found them before they took off again and told them what she had seen, their tube riding ended for the day.
The name of the sports teams at Cedar Key High School is Cedar Key Sharks, and they are appropriately named after the “Big Sharks” that swim in the Gulf waters off Cedar Key!